A Travellerspoint blog

Around the World 2017: Norway's interior

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We had dawdled so long at the playground and the noodle shop in Oslo that I was worried we weren't going to make it to our first inland destination before it closed. The Gaustabanen cable railway was constructed in the 1950's by blasting a tunnel straight through the heart of 6200 foot Mt. Gausta, in order to simplify access to a NATO radio tower that had been erected at the summit. The radio tower was rendered obsolete by the end of the Cold War, but the railway has been renovated for the purpose of tourism. The views from the summit were reportedly spectacular. Gaustabanen's closing time was listed as 6 PM, but I was worried that we would arrive after five only to be told the last funicular of the day had already departed. I kept a watchful eye on the clock as we zipped westward from Oslo, first on the E134 highway and then on the smaller and twistier 37. Our route took us through some beautiful landscape of rolling hills blanketed with low-lying vegetation.

We arrived just before five, but I needn't have worried. The Gaustabanen runs on an as-needed basis right up until six. We were the only ones there when we arrived, so after buying our tickets we were guided directly to the blue train that runs horizontally into the heart of the mountain where the funicular awaits. Fortunately, I didn't let myself be fooled by the mild temperatures at the base of the mountain and we all got layered up into the the warmest clothes we had brought with us. Once we arrived at the top, the wind gusts made us thankful for every fiber of material that came between our skin and the elements. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no visibility at the summit. The mist was so thick I was afraid to let go of the kids thinking that if they took more than two steps away they would disappear completely. Despite the lack of a view, I was glad we'd made it to Gaustabanen in time to have our adventure.


From Gaustabanen it was just a short, scenic drive to our cabin in Rauland. It was a very comfortable place with a wood-burning stove, which I was grateful not to have to utilize in the relatively balmy July weather.

We found an appetizing restaurant nearby on TripAdvisor, but despite arriving just after seven we found it already closed. The few other restaurants listed nearby didn't seem to exist, and we soon found ourselves contemplating eating service station sausages for dinner. We finally found someone who clued us into a summer resort that had a dinner buffet, which proved to be awful with the highlight being cold and greasy pizza. The kids didn't mind it however, which was the most important thing. There were plenty of games for them as well. We had a good sleep in the cabin and had a little walk around the campsite in the morning. The cabins had sod roofs which were thick with grass and small plants. We could see farmhouses and barns scattered around the scruffy little lake nearby. When we checked out, I was surprised to see a fairly elaborate skate park behind the main lodge.

The westward drive proceeded slowly, partly because of the winding one-lane road and partly because we couldn't seem to stay in the car. It seemed like every time we rounded a curve, there was a new spectacular view that we had to get out and take pictures of. We were excited to see snow on the ground, which as Floridians we're not very familiar with. Eventually we found some patches that were big enough for the kids to get out and play in. It was Ian's first time ever touching snow, and Cleo's second after Andorra the previous year. It was hard to get them back in the car. Later on, we began to see some flocks of sheep on the hillsides and some in the middle of the road as well.

In the late afternoon we passed through Odda, a small town at the very tip of the Sørfjorden branch of the famous Hardangerfjord. We had finally reached the fjords of the west coast, although we were still an hour and a half from our final stop of the day. Odda is best known for the Låtefossen waterfall where two separate falls join together just as the water courses under the bridge we drove in on. Odda is also the jumping off point for hikes to Trolltunga, one of the best known rock formations in Norway that for many reasons was not even remotely close to being on our list of things to see.

We decided to take a quick look around the town of Odda and were lucky to find a small road that ascended to the top of a hill that was the home of the Vikinghaug apartments. The views over the valley and fjord beneath us were breathtaking.

Our final leg of the drive was almost entirely alongside Sørfjorden. We took a couple more stops to admire some orchards and pick cherries at a campsite. Finally, after a long day of driving and communing with nature, we arrived in Vossvangen.

Vossvangen was a small town as well but it was big enough to have a small downtown and some decent restaurants for the tourists who pass through the area. We had a good seafood dinner at Malin Restaurant & Sushibar and then scoped out the train station where we would begin our Norway in a Nutshell tour in the morning. This would be the only part of our trip that we had prearranged. These tours are generally considered to be the best way for DIY travelers to see the fjords and scenery of Norway's west coast. We had signed up for the original tour, which would take us into the Aurlandsfjorden and Nærøyfjorden branches of Sognefjorden, the largest fjord in Norway.

One of the good things about the Norway in a Nutshell tours is that they're very flexible. You can begin the tour in several different cities on the route, and begin the round trip in either direction. We started with the two train trips, first to Myrdal via the Bergen railway and then to Flåm via the Flåm railway. The Flåm railway was the more interesting of the two, with distinctive throwback cars and beautiful scenery visible from either side along the route. At one point the train stopped at a viewing platform for one of the larger waterfalls in the area.

In Flåm we had a two hour layover before catching the fjord cruise. We didn't really see much in the way of a town there at all, but rather a cluster of restaurants and boutiques around the cruise ship dock. The setting was quite beautiful with green mountains and cliffs surrounding the serene fjord. Even the huge cruise ship looked sleek and colorful, if somewhat incongruous in the bucolic surroundings.

We had a very good lunch of traditional Norwegian food at Bakkastova Cafe . We let the kids stretch their legs in a rather quirky little playground near the water and then headed to the dock area. There we found a miniature village of food vendors and craft sellers. The seafood stew was so enticing we couldn't resist it, even though we'd just had lunch and the prices were hair-raising.

The cruise itself was fairly sedate, with the expected views of charming coastal villages and imposing cliffsides that rose right from the shoreline. People on the deck were hand-feeding seagulls which hovered against the splendid backdrop.

The last leg of the tour was a bus ride from Gudvangen back to Voss, which was most notable for the bloodcurdling ride down a steep mountain road filled with hairpin turns and views of waterfalls on either side. I was lucky enough to get the shotgun seat which felt somewhat like being on a roller coaster at an amusement park.

Finally we found ourselves back at our car in Voss with all our bags still safely inside. The kids were able to relax in their familiar car seats while I began the hour and a half drive to Bergen.

Posted by zzlangerhans 15:07 Archived in Norway Tagged voss hardangerfjord rauland rjukan odda Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Oslo

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I wasn't really sure how much to expect from Oslo. I'd always written it off as one of the expendable European capitals, an unnecessary destination even if one wanted to feel like an experienced European traveler. Of course, once we decided to go and I began to research the city, I found a lot to like about it. We used our typical two day stop for mid-sized cities in Oslo which turned out to be perfect.

I was prepared for my Danish and Swedish SIM cards not to work in Norway, but we still had a difficult arrival in Oslo. Our GPS had some difficulty negotiating a highway exit once we were in the city and we drove aimlessly around a barren industrial area for a while, unable to find any way out of it. Once we arrived at the residential complex of Pilestredet Park, we realized we had an apartment number but no building number. Sure enough, our SIMs didn't work and we had no way to communicate with our hosts. Eventually Mei Ling found an open Wifi and our hosts directed me to the right building, but once I arrived on the floor I found that only one of the apartments had a number on the door. I spent some time trying to extrapolate where our apartment would be located based on the most logical numbering plan, and then our host arrived just as I was preparing to knock on the wrong door. The Airbnb was a cute little place with a loft and a heavy, low-hanging light fixture that my cranium was to become intimately and repeatedly acquainted with.

I was excited about having dinner at Elias mat & sånt in the city center because I knew they had reindeer stew, which I pictured as being very hearty and gamy. In fact, it proved to be rather flavorless and forgettable along with the rest of the meal, so that made two restaurant dinners in a row that hadn't been worth the trouble. At least we got to see a sample of Norwegian humor in front of a bar next to the restaurant.

The next day we embarked on the full day walking tour we always do in a new European city. We walked through the large graveyard where Edvard Munch is buried to Mathallen, the best-known food hall in Oslo. As usual when we arrived early at a food hall in Scandinavia, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. The atmosphere and variety was similar to Torvalleherne in Copenhagen and Saluhallen in Gothenburg. We found a seafood market and restaurant just as the kitchen was opening, and convinced them to cook us some whale meat even though it wasn't on the menu. Along with some luscious oysters and savory clams, the meal at VulkanFisk was quite delicious. It was only the second time in my life I'd tried whale meat, after having it as sushi in Tokyo a few years earlier.


We walked south along the bank of the Akerselva River, which we eventually crossed at a bridge whose entrance was guarded by a very oddly muralized giant beer bottle.

Just upstairs from the other side of the bridge, we found ourselves in Oslo's hipster neighborhood Grünerløkka. It was an attractive, upbeat little community. I left everyone in a park while I went to 7-Eleven to inquire about my nonfunctional Danish and Swedish SIM cards. Naturally, the end result was having to buy a Norway SIM card. I withdrew cash just in time to pay for the cherries that Mei Ling and the kids had already grabbed from a fruit stand in the park.

The galleries and cafes in Grünerløkka weren't of much interest to us, so we meandered east through the large park Sofienbergparken where lots of people were sunning themselves on the grass and picnicking. Then we crossed Akerselva again into Torggata, another busy downtown neighborhood, where we briefly visited the well-known seafood market and restaurant Fiskeriet Youngstorget. The crates of dried fish were cool, but otherwise we didn't see anything to make us regret having eaten our fill at VulkanFisk in Mathallen earlier.

We stopped briefly at the central train station where I picked up the tickets I had reserved for our Norway in a Nutshell tour later in the trip, and then walked a little further to the waterfront and Oslo's famous Opera House. The most unique feature of this ten year old structure is the long walkway which slopes gently from the roof level to the ground, allowing visitors to walk up to the roof fairly easily. The walkway continues downward past ground level all the way to the water's edge. In the harbor nearby is the steel and glass "She Lies" sculpture. We all climbed the walkway together to the roof. It's steeper than it looks from the ground and the kids loved fighting against the slope and exploring the contoured roof.

On a promontory between the Opera House and the ferry terminal is the 13th century Akershus fortress. We spent about an hour wandering around outside the impressive stone buildings.

We continued our walk onto Aker Brygge, the touristy built-up wharf complex. Unsurprisingly, the boardwalk was lined with unappetizing generic restaurants crowded with tourists. There was also a surprising amount of residential housing, in modern angular apartment blocks. We already had a destination in mind having been recommended Rorbua for dinner by the staff at VulkanFisk that morning. Rorbua proved to be a little bit touristy as well, but their versions of traditional Norwegian game dishes were much more satisfying than what we had the previous night. We were happy to break our short streak of lousy restaurant dinners.

As the late Norwegian dusk began to settle in, street performers were entertaining the growing crowds headed back and forth between the city center and Aker Brygge. Cleo got a supporting role in one comedian's performance.

We had completed most of a circle around central Oslo over the course of a day and just had a half hour walk back to our Airbnb. We walked back through the center, passing between the National Theater and Slottsparken, home of the Royal Palace. We briefly thought about walking into the park to see the palace but concluded we were too exhausted and called it a night.

We spent our second and last morning in Oslo at Vigeland Sculpture Park inside Frognerparken. All the works in the park are nudes by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, and they vary from comical to disturbing. The setting was beautiful, especially when viewed from the elevated platform that houses the central monolith of entwined human figures. The kids and I created our own version of a Vigeland sculpture, although out of respect for the tour groups we chose not to disrobe.

Frognerparken had an elaborate playground with tunnels and suspension bridges that the kids enjoyed for about an hour. After a so-so lunch at a Thai-inspired noodle shop, it was time to set off for Norway's interior. In parting, here's a great local's guide to Oslo.

Posted by zzlangerhans 07:41 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Gothenburg

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There's nothing like the feeling of getting started on a European road trip. As soon as we got back on the bridge over the Øresund, my mind was filled with anticipation of all the exciting places ahead of us. The mood was only slightly dampened by the huge and unexpected sixty dollar bridge toll. We hadn't had to pay on our first crossing from Malmö back to Copenhagen, although I'm not sure why. Of course, it made sense that the costs of bridge construction be born by those actually using it rather than by the entire population through taxes. God knows the Danes and Swedes pay enough of those already.

We had an uneventful drive to Gothenburg, punctuated by a single stop at a farmstand for strawberries and tomatoes. Once we arrived we went straight to our Airbnb in the nondescript residential suburb of Brämaregården, on the other side of the Göta River from central Gothenburg. Like Copenhagen, Gothenburg had a number of market halls and once settled, we drove immediately to one called Kville which was very close by. The market was nearly empty on a Monday evening, but the delicatessens and groceries on the first floor looked very appetizing. Upstairs we were able to put together a very satisfying dinner from a Peruvian ceviche restaurant and a Turkish grill, washed down with Czech Krušovice beer.

It was still early and we didn't want to end our day without seeing downtown Gothenburg, so we drove across the bridge and then underneath the city center via a subterranean highway. We emerged close to the Haga district, a picturesque and bohemian pedestrian area. As we were driving, a very colorful and ornate church caught our eyes and we decided to park and take a closer look. It turned out to be Oscar Fredriks Kyrka, a beautiful example of 19th century neo-Gothic architecture.

As the kids blew off energy in a playground next to the church, the clouds grew thicker and greyer bringing a premature end to the long midsummer Scandinavian day. We needed a supermarket to stock up on milk and other supplies and fortuitously found one on the central island of Inom Vallhaven, across the street from the indoor fish market Feskekörka. The fish market was closed, of course, but the kids enjoyed the playful sculpture of working fishermen outside the market.

We woke up the next morning well-rested and alert, ready for a full day to absorb the essence of Gothenburg. The kids had breakfast in the Airbnb's cozy kitchen, and then we went back to the car. The apartment was in one of a group of buildings that surrounded a large courtyard, in which some people had small vegetable gardens. It was interesting to see the environment that most of Gothenburg's inhabitants call home, an experience that is usually missed when staying in hotels.

We arrived back at Feskekörka an hour before the ten o'clock opening time. I hadn't even checked the hours, assuming a fish market would open early in the morning. Rather than wait around, we walked to the Saluhallen market hall which is also located on Inom Vallgraven. I'll probably put my foot in it here, but I believe Vallgraven refers to the moat that turns the historical center of Gothenburg into an island, and Inom Vallgraven means "the area within the moat". The moat is all that remains of the original fortifications of the city, the formidable twenty-foot stone walls having been torn down in the early 19th century. Thanks to the low bridges, the moat is now only in use by Paddan sightseeing boats. Walking alongside the moat, we could see the pretty green space of Kungsparken on the other bank.

Saluhallen was already open, but we were practically the only visitors. It was a very modern, clean market brightly illuminated by the sun which filtered in through the greenhouse-like roof. We were pleased to have the market almost to ourselves as we wandered between the different stalls packed with gourmet delicacies. We found a cafe and ordered coffee and sandwiches while I made some purchases around the market to complement our meal. By the time we left, I was happy to see the market getting a little more populated as the early lunch crowd began to arrive. Outside in the square there were a few fruit and vegetable stalls where we picked up some perfect cherries for the kids.


We spent another pleasant hour walking around the eastern half of Inom Vallgraven, which was partially pedestrianized and filled with shops and cafes. We explored the pretty little park around the Gothenburg Cathedral, after which we climbed the hill behind Feskekörka for the view over the canal to the rest of the city. We frequently encountered the little touches that make Scandinavia unique, such as the Zen-like gardens of glass shards that lined the stairway back down to the canal.

Feskekörka was quite busy when we returned, and the seafood selection was very diverse and appetizing. There was a fairly crowded restaurant upstairs and we couldn't resist sitting down for another meal, especially once we saw they had wolffish on the menu. Despite having just eaten at Saluhallen, we found the room to consume some excellent seafood dishes. The wolffish turned out to be flavorful with a somewhat dense texture, a little like triggerfish. We resolved to try it again when we had the chance. Feskekörka actually means fish church in Swedish, and the name refers to the unusual design of the market that was inspired by Norwegian stave churches.

After lunch we drove to the Universeum, a highly-regarded science museum which contains a multi-story rain forest with live animals. The kids loved it, especially the maze of suspension bridges and spiral staircases within lifelike trees.

Between the rain forest and the play area, it was practically dinner time once we got out of Universeum. We drove back to Haga but the restaurant I had selected was booked solid. We walked around for a while and couldn't locate another real restaurant, instead encountering a preponderance of sandwich shops and cafes. I still thought we would find a decent restaurant nearby fairly easily, given that we were still in the center of the city, so we set off eastward along the main boulevard Vasagatan instead of returning to the car. Unfortunately, we spent almost an hour walking an ungodly distance yet completely unable to find a place to eat, despite the assistance of TripAdvisor. Adding to our discomfort was the sudden appearance of a sharp evening chill as the sun began to descend. Eventually we found ourselves at a Thai restaurant with a good rating more than a kilometer from where we'd started. We had to eat in an outside booth whose plastic walls did little to block out the increasingly icy wind. We hurried through our dinner, which despite the pleasant appearance of the restaurant was just on the edible side of awful. Walking back to the car in Haga in the cold dark was unimaginable, but fortunately we were able to flag down a taxi on Vasagatan. He seemed shocked that we were taking just a one kilometer ride, but we were all inside before he had a chance to turn us down. It wasn't an ideal ending to what had been a great day, but that's the nature of traveling. A few bad meals and annoyances aren't that high of a price to pay for all the amazing experiences we've had on our adventures.

On our second and last morning in Gothenburg we went to the park west of Inom Vallgraven called Trädgårdsföreningen, which translates roughly to Garden Society. The park was beautifully designed with serene pools, lush gardens, and an amazing topiary. Naturally there was a playground which had one of the roundabouts that are ubiquitous in European parks. Our older kids tried to keep up with the some bigger local kids who were spinning it faster and faster but both of them eventually gave up the game as well as their breakfasts in the bushes.

For lunch we returned to the scene of the previous night's downfall in Haga. This time we were able to get a table at Sjöbaren but the lunch menu was very limited. We ate enough to tide us over to dinner, but it was nowhere near as satisfying as the previous day's double lunch. We found Haga much livelier during the day than it had been in the evenings, and spent a pleasant half hour wandering up and down its cobblestoned main drag Haga Nygata. There was a lot more we could have done with another day or two in Gothenburg, but our itinerary demanded that we get back on the road. Norway, the last country of our round-the-world trip, was waiting for us.

Posted by zzlangerhans 02:16 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Copenhagen day trips

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After I decided to expand our Copenhagen stop into a Scandinavian road trip, I kept the Copenhagen stay at six days. This ended up being a wise decision because there were plenty of things to do within a short drive of Copenhagen as well as in Copenhagen itself. Our first day trip was over the bridge to Malmö, Sweden where we were picking up our rental car. If you're going to visit Malmö, the first thing you should know is not to ignore the umlaut over the letter o. The umlaut means the name is pronounced something like Malmeuh, rather than Malmoh. Of course, you'll be understood if you pronounce the name of the city wrong but it's somewhat annoying to natives. Imagine someone calling the capital of your country Washingtown if you're American, or Londown if you're English. It's not that big of a deal, but always better to get it right if you can.

Like Copenhagen, Malmö is a city with a lot of water around in the form of sea, canals, and ponds. Walking southward alongside a wide canal towards the city center, we passed the stately and ornate post office before a colorful structure caught our eye on the other side of the canal. We crossed to find something that seemed to be part sculpture, part jungle gym. As far as the kids were concerned, it was 100% a jungle gym. I later learned the sculpture is called https://hcarlberg.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/spectral-self-container-art-in-malmo-by-the-sea-arte-a-malmo-dal-mare/ (< ERROR: the link title is too long!), which was completed by the well-known Swedish sculptor Matti Kallioinen in 2013. It turned out to be quite useful, because it occupied the kids while I spent a boring half hour in 7-11 trying to determine why my Denmark SIM didn't function at all in Malmö despite the assurances of the Danish 7-11 clerk in Copenhagen. Eventually I gave up and bought a new SIM card for Sweden.

We didn't have to walk much further to reach Malmö's picturesque center. There are two central squares called Lilla Torg, the little square, and Stortorget, the great square. We had lunch at a cafe called Moosehead in Lilla Torg whose menu offered an incongruous but satisfying mixture of Thai food and burgers. Stortorget was surrounded by tall, beautiful townhouses and had a monument to King Charles X Gustav on horseback in the center. The surrounding area was largely pedestrianised and filled with traditional Swedish homes which were now shops and galleries.

Not far from Stortorget was Sankt Petri Kyrka, the most famous church in Malmö. The 14th century Gothic exterior is built almost entirely from brick, yet the facades and buttresses had a complex and sculpted appearance that was very appealing.

A few blocks south we ran into the moat-like canal that surrounds central Malmö. We checked out the view of the canal from one of the bridges then walked along the canalside promenade to Malmö's premiere green space Slottsparken.

We spent another hour circling back towards the car in Slottsparken, passing an interesting windmill and the relatively nondescript Malmö Castle, which is now a museum. After that, it was time to retrieve our new car and head back to Copenhagen for a well-earned dinner.

Northern Zealand
Until I visited Denmark, I'd never realized how close the country was to being an archipelago. The largest part of the country is connected to the European mainland, but only by an isthmus so long and narrow that it might as well be an island. Aside from the peninsula there are several large islands including Zealand, the one on which Copenhagen is situated. Our destination for our first full day in Denmark with a car was the northeastern part of Zealand, home to legendary castles and beautiful scenery.

After breakfast we drove straight to Frederiksborg Castle, near the town of Hillerød. The design of the castle was breathtaking, an enormous yet intricate edifice of red brick with countless turrets and spires. The castle was set in the middle of a large pond with swans and other birds, and to the rear were expansive and lush gardens.


The interior of the castle was equally impressive, especially the imposing and ornate Great Hall which is also an 18th century restoration after the original was destroyed by fire.

On the way out I got a nice shot of the famous Neptune fountain framed by the archway of one of the outlying buildings. The current fountain is actually a 19th century copy of the 17th original which was taken by the Swedes as war booty a few decades after its construction. Are the Danes still pissed off about it? I never had a chance to ask, although I've heard there's not a lot of love lost between the people of the two countries.

For lunch we drove up to Hornbaek on the northern coast of Zealand, where there's a fish restaurant with a small seafood market right next to the harbor. All the kids were sleeping and it was too windy to eat outside, so we ate our lunches on trays in the car.

Ten minutes from Hornbaek was Kronborg Castle, famous for being the inspiration for Hamlet's castle Elsinore. The castle is located on a promontory at the narrowest point of the Øresund, just two miles from the Swedish coastline. Kronborg has a somewhat bleaker appearance than Frederiksborg, probably due to serving double duty as a fortress controlling entrance into the Øresund as well as being a royal residence. We decided to forgo the steep entry price and limited our exploration to the grounds and gift shop.

Kronborg Castle is next to the midsized town of Helsingør, which has a well-preserved town center with centuries-old townhouses and cobblestone streets. The town was surprisingly busy and touristy, considering there hadn't been much of a crowd at the castle. We were excited to find a large epicurean market in the main square, although I'm not sure if it was a seasonal event or a one-off. We enjoyed the market and had drinks in a cozy cafe before returning to Copenhagen for dinner.

The next day was the coldest and rainiest of the entire Scandinavian road trip. We started out at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, a town better known for its annual electronic music festival. Perhaps it was the drizzle and overcast skies, but the town seemed very dreary and plain. The museum wasn't very exciting either, with a few boat skeletons and other drab displays. It was too cold to participate in the craft workshops outside, which weren't included in the already hefty admission prices. The kids attempted a little hammer throwing and then we were back on the road to the little island of Møn just south of Zealand.

It was a long drive to Møn so by the time we reached the little town of Stege we were more than ready for lunch. Fortunately there was an excellent cafe called David's which had delicious salads and sandwiches.

Our ultimate destination was GeoCenter Møns Klint, a geological museum at the eastern tip of the island. The largely underground museum is perched at the top of Møn's famous chalk cliffs. The last part of the drive took us through a very spooky and misty forest.

The GeoCenter was as delightful as the Viking Museum had been disappointing. It was much more than a geological museum, with plenty of interactive exhibits covering everything from erosion to dinosaurs.

After a couple of pleasant hours in the GeoCenter, we explored the boardwalk behind the museum that ran along the edge of the cliffs. Unfortunately the mist obscured the limited view of the cliffs available from the boardwalk and descending the hundreds of stairs to the beach below was out of the question. Instead we packed everyone up and began the long drive back to Copenhagen for dinner.

Posted by zzlangerhans 17:34 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Around the World 2017: Copenhagen part II

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Thanks to day trips and some rain, we didn't do our Copenhagen walkaround until our last full day. We had the additional advantage of Sunday being a free day for parking. Leaving the car for the entire day in the central Red Zone where our Airbnb was located would have cost us an arm and a leg any other day. We had another awesome breakfast near the Airbnb and walked a block to the botanical garden which had a large greenhouse and delightful paths to walk on.

Just southeast of the botanical garden are the 17th century castle Rosenborg Slot and Kongens Have, the King's Gardens. Having just visited the enormous Frederiksborg Slot a few days earlier, we decided to pass up the interior of the castle in favor of a longer walk through the lush, manicured gardens. Mei Ling, Cleo and Spenser used the extra time to participate in a tai chi class on one of the lawns. The Danes were disappointed to learn we wouldn't be able to come back the next Sunday.

A couple of blocks southeast of Kongens Have we found Frederiks Kirke, also known as the Marble Church, a beautiful 18th century rococo church with a distinctive green dome that is the largest in Scandinavia. We followed a small street to the octagonal courtyard of Amalienborg Palace, the home of the Danish royal family. We probably could have spent an entire day visiting and exploring all the churches and palaces, but in general we prefer to stick to the streets and markets.

Continuing southeast from Amalienborg we quickly found ourselves at the shoreline of Copenhagen Harbor. There was a small park here called Amaliehaven with a central fountain. Across the harbor we could see the Copenhagen Opera House. Not far from the Opera House I could see a large number of people milling around on a patio. I thought at first it might be an outdoor concert then realized with a shock that I was looking at Copenhagen Street Food from a whole different perspective. It had taken so long to drive there I assumed it was very far from where we were staying, but actually it was just a half hour's walk away.

Just a block south of Amaliehaven was Nyhavn, the center of tourist activity in Copenhagen. The short dead end canal off Copenhagen Harbor was built in the 17th century to facilitate unloading of fish and cargo at Kongens Nytorv, which is now a public square. Nyhavn is now mainly used as a port for tour boats, and is lined with chain restaurants and souvenir shops. The most distinctive feature of Nyhavn is the collection of brightly covered townhouses, some of which date back to the 17th century as well.

Because of the high concentration of tourists, it wasn't easy to find a place worth eating at. The canalside restaurants seemed to have the usual selections of bland international food. We employed TripAdvisor and were able to find a decent meal a couple of blocks away, even though our table was in an active roadway.

The kids were clamoring for a boat ride and the prices weren't unreasonable for a one hour tour, so we decided one touristy activity wouldn't kill our vibe too badly. In fact, the tour turned out to be quite worthwhile. As in Venice, seeing the city from the perspective of the water feels completely different from being on land. The boat took us around the narrow semicircular canal that forms the island of Slotsholmen, which is the site of the Danish Parliament. We also went to the north end of the harbor to see the Little Mermaid statue, which we never would have bothered with on our own. The most impressive thing wasn't the statue itself but the flock of tourists that were gathered around the unassuming little sculpture. It always amazes me how many travelers dedicate themselves to checking off every attraction listed in their guidebook at the expense of missing all kinds of amazing sights and experiences in the city streets.

From Nyhavn we walked southwest to Tivoli Gardens, crossing the bridges into and out of Slotsholmen and passing Parliament and many other stately paragons of classic architecture. The area was largely deserted on a Sunday afternoon, and the imposing buildings and cloudy skies gave the area a forsaken atmosphere.

The Tivoli Gardens was probably the most expensive amusement park I've ever visited, charging high prices both for admission and for the rides. However, we rarely pass something up that we want to do solely because of the cost, and the kids deserved some entertainment after a long day of walking. The park was beautiful in some areas, but the rides themselves were somewhat rudimentary and the place had the usual grit and smells common to amusement parks everywhere. Fortunately our kids are still young enough not to be too discriminating. They just love to be rewarded, and they know how to have fun.

We decided to return to Kødbyens for dinner. My map indicated the walk wasn't every long, but we exited on the wrong side of Tivoli and it ended up being close to a half hour. We had noticed Kødbyens Fiskebar when we were at Mad & Marked the previous day, and the proprietor of the fishmarket at Torvehallerne had recommended it to us as well. We hadn't made a reservation because we didn't want to be tied to a schedule, so we had to wait a while for a table and eventually had to sit outdoors. The sun was already going down and the chill was hardly offset by the blankets they provided to drape over ourselves. Fortunately, we had enough warm clothes and scarves to keep the kids warm without burying them in blankets. It was our first real restaurant meal in Copenhagen and our gamble paid off. The tapas style restaurant lived up to its reputation with delicious and beautiful presentations of fish and shellfish, as well as amazing cocktails.

Monday morning we had one last satisfying Copenhagen breakfast before heading back across the Øresund to Sweden.

Posted by zzlangerhans 09:45 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

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